Healthy Eating

Miami's Natural Choice Vending Stocks Healthy Options In Snack Machines

Aah vending machine, that great bastion of robot based snack-type commercial transactions. Frosted cakes, chocolate bars, sour candies, chips a plenty and sodas to go with em', that's the vending way.

A South Florida company called Natural Choice Vending begs to differ. Two vegetarian raised sisters from Miami, Jennie and Rebecca Albano, are behind Natural Choice Vending, a company that aims to encourage healthy eating choices by providing them as options in vending machines.

Short Order recently spoke to Jennie Albano via telephone. She told us about her move away from the evils of broadcast newsertainment, getting junk out of schools, and a healthy price point. Here's what she had to say...

ShortOrder: What's everything cost?
JennieAlbano: Our pricing is pretty much comparable to regular vending machines, almost everything costs a dollar. Our most expensive products are the Lara bars or Clif bars at $1.50, because with the meal replacement options it gets a little more expensive and we are trying to run a business here, but all the chips or fruit products are a dollar. It's not gonna be 50 cents or 75 cents because it's real food, and real fruit, and that costs more, but we think people will be willing to shell out the extra quarter. We really want people to be able to eat healthy out of the machine.

ShortOrder: Do you plan on getting your machines into public schools?
JenniAlbano: Right now we're focusing on private schools because public school is sort of a political bidding process, and we're just a small company. We have a family friend who is a lobbyist and he's doing some intital research for us.

My sister is going after accounts. We have connections at Carrolton, Miami Country Day School, we're working family, friends, the PTA, mothers....we get approached by a lot of mothers who say they're dying to get junk food out of the schools. I think it's a real problem.

We were raised natural food vegetarian in the 80's. Our mom used to buy all our food from a place called Oak Feed in the Grove that's not there anymore. We went to a public elementary school on Key Biscayne, and even there the food wasn't very healthy. She felt like why should she try to raise us a certain way if the school couldn't do the same, but everyday our lunch was filled with whole grains, and real fruit. That's kind of the main reason we're doing it.

We'd love to be able to offer people that. We're hoping at least we can join the fight to give them a choice, we're not trying to muscle out anybody. Why can't people have an alternative if they're looking for it?

ShortOrder: Who does all the machine stuff, do you have delivery drivers?
JennieAlbano: It's just me and my sister, we literally do everything. When we first deliver a machine I do have a guy drop it off. But, I do all the tech stuff, I'm sort of nerdy like that, and  so far I've never come across something I couldn't fix myself. We test everything, and we're always looking for new stuff. We have little hand trucks, and we each have an SUV, it's really kind of comical to see us in action.

Before this I was producing entertainment news, for E! and I thought to myself, "I'm contributing to the worst part of our culture instead of helping it."

Right now we have 6 machines out there: We have two at the Miami Herald, they have this wellness program that we fit right in with, we have one at Ransom Everglades High School, it has 20 different all natural beverages. We have 3 machines at World Fuel Services in Doral. They have 500 employees and a wellness program.

For us it's not about money making, it's about let's give people an option."

Log on to Natural Choice Vending's website, or facebook for more info.